Top 3 options for Browns with No. 1 overall draft pick

Two elite pass-rushers and an intriguing QB make up Cleveland's top available options with the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL draft.

| 5 months ago
(Bob Levey, Getty Images)

(Bob Levey, Getty Images)

Top 3 options for Browns with No. 1 overall draft pick

What seemed inevitable all season is now finally official: the Cleveland Browns are on the clock with the No. 1 overall pick.

The Browns held the No. 2 spot a year ago, a pick they traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for a haul of draft choices (the Eagles selected QB Carson Wentz). Because of that trade, the Browns also hold the No. 12 pick in the first round, giving them unique leverage heading into the draft.

The top spot holds a number of options, and a quarterback-needy team like the Browns is sure to scout all of the top signal-callers, but it’s a draft that lacks a clear front-runner at the top. Here’s a look at three strong options for Cleveland at the top of the draft, with the caveat with all three players that we are still early on in our evaluation process.

Myles Garrett, edge defender, Texas A&M

Seemingly destined to be a top-five pick since he stepped onto campus as a true freshman in 2014, Garrett may be the best overall player in the draft from a production and athleticism standpoint. He finished his three-year career with 31 sacks, 35 QB hits and 99 hurries (165 total pressures) on 978 rushes, creating pressure on 16.9 percent of his attempts (NCAA average is 10.0 percent).

Garrett’s ability to affect the quarterback has always been there, and he has the versatility to win a number of ways, as evidenced by his well-distributed win percentage on his 50 pressures that involved beating a blocker this season. He won 20 times to the outside, 20 to the inside, and 10 times with a bull-rush, showing that he has the burst and hands to win outside, an inside counter off of that, and the power to push the pocket when necessary.

The questions for Garrett have always come in the run game, where his overall work had not been up to No. 1 overall pick standards in his first two seasons, but he made great strides in that department this season. His 87.8 grade against the run ranked third among edge defenders, as Garrett improved his ability to disrupt and take on blocks at the point of attack. With that improvement and his pass-rushing prowess, expect Garrett’s name to be called at the top of the draft. He’s a fit for any scheme, but perfect for a Browns team that features one of the worst pass rushes in the NFL and lacks any consistent threat off the edge.

Jonathan Allen, defensive interior, Alabama

Going from first-round hopeful to top-five hopeful this season, Allen made the most of his most extensive playing time of his career in 2016. He finished the season with 11 sacks, 12 QB hits, and 41 hurries, giving him 31, 26 and 84 on 1,000 career rushes. Allen’s 93.6 pass-rush grade leads all interior defensive linemen with one game to go and he’s complemented it with an 87.2 run-defense grade that ranks 11th.

Allen is a different kind of player than Garrett, as he does most of his work as a rusher from the interior, although he has the versatility to move up and down the defensive line in order to create mismatches. He could play on the outside on early downs while rushing from the interior in nickel and dime packages, but regardless of usage, Allen would provide an upgrade to a Browns defensive front that needs playmakers.

Coming into the year, Allen had top-five overall potential, but he took his game to a new level and stood out as the best player on a loaded Alabama defense and perhaps the best overall player in the nation regardless of position. It may come down to position preference and versatility if the Browns are choosing between Garrett and Allen, and they may be intrigued enough to go with Allen due to his ability to play multiple roles along the defensive front.

Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

at Memorial Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Clemson, South Carolina.

With one showcase opportunity remaining in the national title game against Alabama, Watson has a chance to prove his doubters wrong with a high-level performance against the nation’s top defense. He’s had his ups and downs this season, throwing far too many passes into coverage and getting burned to the tune of 17 interceptions.

So while there have been more mistakes than we’d like to see, the thing that continues to stand out about Watson is his ability to bounce back from that adversity. Rarely do his mistakes compound, and he’s kept great composure during Clemson’s run to back-to-back national title games.

Watson can zip the ball up the seam or drop it in a bucket down the field, he improved his work under pressure this season (adjusted completion percentage of 62.5 percent after sitting at 47.6 percent a year ago), and his overall adjusted completion percentage of 76.0 percent ranks ninth in the nation after ranking seventh in 2015.

While the throw-for-throw production has been there for Watson since his freshman year, and he currently sits at No. 3 overall in our quarterback grades at 90.6, there are some concerns. Prior to the season, we compared Watson’s game to Cam Newton,as he can mix in big-time throws while missing on easier passes, but the place in which the two QBs differ is Newton’s monster stature and huge arm that allow him to make those throws from a congested pocket.

Still, Watson has enough physical ability to succeed in the NFL, and his strong work as a runner is added bonus to his NFL skill set. Given that the rest of the league is not sold on Watson’s ability, the Browns may look to add a defensive playmaker at the top before looking to Watson with their second first-round pick, but if they’re sold on his potential as a franchise quarterback, there’s nothing wrong with taking him No. 1 overall.

| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • a57se

    You guys watch every play, right? How do you miss the fact that Garrett never shows ANY hustle? I’ve watched several cut-ups of him and have never seen him run a play down from behind, usually he is jogging or walking around when the play isn’t going in his direction. A guy with a motor like his is not worthy of a top 5 pick in my book.
    Deshaun Watson has shown that he is scattershot with his arm, he is the second coming of Tyrod Taylor at best…another non-worthy top five pick.

    • BeansNRice

      Tyrod Taylor was a 5th Rd pick and has been a very worthy nfl caliber starter for 4 years now.

      • a57se

        Really? Hate to tell you this but Tyrod has only started the last two years and Buffalo just benched him for EJ Manuel. He has been OK as a starter but he is limited.

        • AJ

          Literally the other day the exact site your on said the Bills should be building their franchise around Taylor.

          Second he was benched to keep 35.7 million dollars from becoming guaranteed if he got hurt in the final game. It was the GM who drafted EJ in the 1st that wanted him to start.

          • a57se

            Hey, I think the Bills are idiots for the contract they gave Taylor. They should try and renegotiate it but what incentive is there for Taylor to do that?
            They should not overspend on the guy and that is what they will be doing if they follow PFF’s advice. That isn’t so terrible when you look at their current options…

    • The Observer

      That is true about Garrett, a57se, he seemed to moving at 75%, no hustle, in the bowl game. I heard there could be a lingering injury he had but his “motor” ought to be checked out.

  • Dan Contento

    The problem with taking Allen is not knowing how much of his success is due to playing with an outstanding supporting cast. He plays alongside linebacker Rueben Foster who CBS Sports has ranked #4 overall on their BigBoard. Remember how good Courtney Brown looked playing alongside LaVar Arrington? Without Arrington drawing double teams all day, Brown played more like Courtney Love. I would stick with the guy who beats his man one-on-one almost every time he lines up up. That would be Myles Garrett.

    • a57se

      You need to watch more Garrett tape dude.

      • bob

        I think he tapes his fingers up together. I saw that tape.

        • a57se

          I think he needs more pancakes!

    • BeansNRice

      The entire concept of PFF is to ignore traditional production stats and look only at the individual player on each play and circumstance. Allen is already a pro bowlers caliber player. Bama had a legit top 10 nfl D and Allen is a big reason why.

      • keithmoon22

        are you saying the bama defense from last season would be a top 10 in the nfl today????? Please tell me I am mis-reading you.

        • BeansNRice

          Yes, the front 7 would be.

    • David Serenda

      I wold rather have the guy who has played in a true NFL system. I know anyone from Alabama is well coached and prepared.

      • Will Maxbi

        Most Alabama players have peaked at Tuscaloosa. They’re good players but not franchise NFL players. EXCEPTION “Julio Jones”

  • McGeorge

    Please let teams draft QBs ahead of the Jets so they don’t reach yet again.

    • crosseyedlemon

      Reaching has it’s drawbacks but occasionally you hit the jackpot. The alternative is signing a castoff like Tim Tebow and that strategy accomplishes nothing for the Jets.

  • Jheromy N Vee Jackson

    The browns should go defense then offensive line. There are no qb’s in this draft worth the first round. Yes I said it and there are definitely non that can help the browns next year PERIOD!!!!

  • Antonio Palestini

    The browns should go with defense im round one, then offensive line in round two, re sing jaime collins, then next season they will suck, so they will get a good pick and then draft a qb, they suck a lot right now, not even brady could win more than 5 gamss with this rosster

    • Jheromy N Vee Jackson

      Thank you for seeing that fact sir. These browns fans think a qb is the magic cure all. I have never seen a franchise in recent memory blow thru so many half way decent qb’s, because their team sucks than the browns.

      • Antonio Palestini

        If they keep Collins, they should pick Allen, because Collines can rush the passer very well, so you plug Allen in the 3-4 scheme, with a Ruben Foster at mike lb, and you have a very good front seven.
        The problem is that, i dont trust Alabama players, causd they all are good and Saint Nick is a extremelly good deffensive coach, if i could chose, i would pick Garrett and Pepers

        • keithmoon22

          Ravens want Pepers, I will be very …VERY…UNHAPPY…..if they land him. I don’t care about the rap on him about not having a true position. I have seen every play of every college game he played & HE IS SPECIAL!

          • Antonio Palestini

            Pepers is a baller, the ravens can probably get him, he’s stock is very low right now, ruben foster may also fall, i dident knew about the concusion problems, he is a stud, but he is useless if he cant play, the browns will problably pick Garret, and i dont know what they will do with the 12 pick, i would grab an o-linemen, or a corner maybe

  • William Coffman

    Myles Garrett is alone at top pick by a considerable distance. There is no lack of consensus on this nationwide. Cleveland takes Garrett at #1.

    • Rick

      That would make for a short article.

  • crosseyedlemon

    The Browns will most likely deal one of those first round picks. The Vikings currently have no first round pick (a need at OL) and defensive talent that would interest Cleveland. I wouldn’t be surprised to see those two teams work something out.

  • The Observer

    RE PFF’s take on Watson, “there’s nothing wrong with taking him No. 1 overall.” Hell yea there is a lot wrong with taking him #1. You don’t pass up elite edge guys or Allen. Garret, Allen or even Barnett will be taken #1. The Browns should take another defensive end or CB with the #12. Some mockers show Watson 2nd or 3rd round, one poss 4th round. Hell go higher because idiot GMs reach for QBs but there is no way the Browns should take Watson or any QB Round 1. This is the draft where edge and DL shine and the Brown must come out of this draft with two elite playmakers, high impact el DE and DL (or CB with #12).

    • Jheromy N Vee Jackson

      Well put!! A team that plays the Steelers twice needs defense and o-line players. Stop killing QB’S. Have you not learn anything the last 20 years. I’m not even a browns fan, I’m just sick and tired of them not being competitive. There are no good qb’s in this draft and the sample size on the kid out of North Carolina is way to small to be declaring him the first pick of the DRAFT, especially after that bowl game. Sashi should be ashamed of himself catering to these fool fans. YOU DON’T NEED A QB FROM EVERY FREAKING DRAFT DAMN!!! BUILD YOU TEAM FIRST!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Robert Strickland Jr.

        I agree they need to build their team first. I disagree about Trubiski though, slightly. I think he will be a good nfl qb, not worth number 1 overall though when you have an elite edge, and the most versatile lineman in the draft staring at you. They need to fix that defense first. I do agree with that. They should pick a qb but pick late. I believe in picking a qb in every draft even if it’s a 7th rounder. Good QBs aren’t found easily so you need to constantly be turning over every rock especially if you don’t have your guy, AND his established backup in the building.

        • Robert Strickland Jr.

          Trubiski was showing out in that game. Forcing passes, overthrowing receivers. I seen him run once when he could have thrown for a 1st down. He could have dominated if he let the game comee to him, but he was out there auditioning for the first pick. He overdid it and it cost him a few draft spots.. But he didn’t play like that all year. He can be coached. He will be a good qb. Not number one material though.

    • Trenton Tyler Rains

      How will this draft be the best defensive line draft in a decade? Plenty of edge rushers but this draft is lacking on interior defensive lineman. After Allen it’s a considerable drop-off and after that deep draft we just had last year with interior defensive lineman I find it hard to believe this will be the defensive line draft of the decade. If anything it’s deeper in CBs or RBs.

      • Austin

        This draft is by far the best defensive draft in a decade.

      • Robert Strickland Jr.

        Edge is deep in this draft. DL is deeper than you think. Draft has some great corners. Also has a few really good ILB’s. That hasn’t been the case for some years now. I don’t know about a decade but it’s a damn good defensive draft. I am excited

    • Austin

      We need to go defense in the first 3 rounds then in the 4th we can get a center and maybe a qb. I think we should wait for sam darnold next year.

    • DaStrongSKRAWN

      Tyrod or Kaep on the Browns would be dope! I truly believe in Hue Jackson as a coach getting the best out of his players. Tyrod is my first choice but both can definitely get the job done. If negotiations break down between the Redskins and Cousins, he can be the guy too.

    • roger

      Really cuz Atlantas defensive line didn’t throw 5 tds yesterday. You can’t win without a good qb. None of the loser qbs that you listed have helped their teams win. Which is why their free agents. And Brees is not on the market.
      I agree that the Browns need defensive playmakers. But with no offense even an elite defense will wear out by the 4th quarter.
      I say grab Trubisky #1. He and Carson Wentz have almost identical college numbers. They’re the same size and while Wentz ran more in college Trubisky is no slouch.
      Everyone whinedthat we passed on Wentz. Well here’s our second chance. Let’s not over think this and grab our franchise qb. I’m sick of drafting the second, third or fourth ranked qbs (Quinn, Manziel, Weeden) I mean do you want to waste 2 more years developing a guy that won’t make it in the nfl?
      Ugh no. Forget Garrett go Trubisky.
      You guys said it yourselves, this draft is stacked with defensive players. We can find a starter or 3 with picks 12, 33,52 and 65.

  • Bill Kristollnacht

    DeShaun Watson?

    You have to be on LSD.

  • dieselman

    Garrett at #1, then trade up to #4-5 to take Watson, Trubisky, or Dalvin Cook (my preference by far is Watson). It might cost a 2 and a 3, but the upgrade on offense and defense would be dramatic and immediate. Bye, bye to RG3. Way too fragile!

  • VMI1998

    Allen is the number one pick. Sure Garrett had elite production, but look closer at his numbers. Nearly all of his stats came against low level competition. The QB’s in this draft aren’t worth a top ten pick. One or more teams will reach due to need. I see them picking the best second tier QB and hopefully finding another veteran to bring in via free agency.

  • Timothy Simpson

    The browns should do what the cowboys did and draft offensive lineman. See thing is no matter what they do at an there o line will be bad yes they Joe Thomas and Joel Bitino but they a RT or Rg or even a center also Thomas will be retiring in a couple years or so. I’ve been a fans all my life and continuly see them pick round 1qbs and every time they have they don’t have the o line to protect look at when they drafted Tim Couch they had no line to protect him 2 years later he was in the feddle position. Right the browns could Tom Brady and they still wouldn’t win if they had Brady would get his neck broke because of no line. You absolutely have to a O line and then after you get a O line you get D line then you get a secondary in the defense and the browns already have some playmakers Pryor and Barniage and maybe hopefully Coleman in the future and Crowell shows some promise give him a good o line and he will be good so if the browns don’t trade any picks what they to do is draft two o lineman in the first round second round get d lineman third get secdary and maybe fourth too if I’m not mistaken I think they two forth round picks with second forth pick get a wide receiver and then the rest of the draft be mostly defense and maybe get qb late just for depth chart if the browns would do that then maybe they can a qb next year

  • patty

    The Browns are so far away from being good that they shouldn’t even consider a QB in rd 7.. The Browns front office has no idea how to draft, regardless of position. I’m one of the few people who think Trubinsky and Kizer will be good pros, but this roster needs to improve at every position before they draft a QB. They have a ton of needs, but I would draft Garrett at #1 and depending on who is still available at 12, I would consider trading the pick.

  • patty

    The Browns have been exceptionaly bad since 2011, this was the year Atlanta gave the Browns enough early draft picks to set the team up for a future superbowl run. Cleveland traded their 6th pick to Atlanta for the 2011 27th pick, 59th and 124th picks. They also receive the Falcons 2012 22nd overall pick and 118th pick. In true Browns fashion, they completely screwed this up, instead of staying at #6 and drafting a blue chip plyer like Julio Jones, Tyron Smith, or JJ Watt, they made the deal and all of the players they drafted are already out of the NFL..

  • patty

    Since then they really haven’t hit on a 1st round pick, they traded up to draft Trent Richardson 3rd overall, followed by Brandon Weeden at 22. In 2013 they drafted Mingo 6th overall.

    2014 may have beenough their worst draft, the Browns held the 4th and 22nd pick in a very good draft. Instead of selecting Defensive MVP Khalil Mack 4th overall, they traded the pick to draft Jimmy Gilbert 8th overall. Passing on OBJ, A. Donald, Anthony Barr, Taylor Lewan, Shazier. With the 22nd pick they selected Johnny Manziel.

    If the Browns could have drafted Aaron Donald, Jason Verett, and Derek Carr..SMH

    • keithmoon22

      Not “Jimmy”……Justin Gilbert……one of the worst picks in NFL history. I think about Mack & Carr all the time. I think they could have had Cooper as well. Everytime I watch the Raiders it hurts.. They made all the right moves that Farmer whiffed on.

      • Kevin

        I do the same thing. Every time I see Carr throwing a laser pass, I think about what they would have meant to the Browns.